Nov 30, 2009

In The Face Of A Child

Do you ever wonder where your faith is taking you, besides Heaven I mean? Do you ever wonder about its present meaning? Do you wonder about its circumstantial meaning, how it really matters in the ebb and flow of your every day life?

The Redemptive Drama is obviously a long and convoluted one. It began long before that beautiful, innocent Baby with the shinning face appeared in the manger. It really began with Adam and Eve. Eventually, the story starts to follow the trail of the roots and then the national history of Israel. It meanders down through the divine object lessons of the Old Testament, and through the times of the prophets. Then it comes to that breathless 400 year pause in the narrative while mankind waited for God to speak again - until finally, He did. He gave us that beautiful Baby, in whose face was shinning both our own hope and the perfect revelation of God, Himself.

And ever since that first Christmas, the redemptive story has continued to play out. It has run its course through the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension. It has followed the path of Church history from the burgeoning early Church, through the marriage of the Church to Rome. From there, it ambles through the times of apostasy to the Reformation where a new Church was born from the old to add yet a "second scene" to the redemptive play. Until eventually, we have come to this present day, when the climax to this divine drama draws very near.

But no wonder it is sometimes hard to hold on to the "primary thread" of the story. No wonder we find it difficult to maintain an everyday awareness of what it all means. It is all so very BIG and historically far flung.

However, while the fullness of the story may be somewhat complex, that primary thread, the central idea of the redemptive drama, really is not. In fact, it is spectacularly simple. Jesus did a wonderful job of revealing it in John, chapter 5, where he said...

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

"You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."

The fruit to which Jesus refers here is what might be called "character fruit." Paul give us some examples of this kind of fruit in Galatians, chapter 5, where he says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."

The idea that Paul exposes in this passage is that, as Christ, in Spirit form, begins to express Himself within the character of the believer, these are the kinds of fruits (character traits) that will be produced within the believer. These are the fruits of the redemptive transformation, they are the substance and "produce" of the "new creature" in Christ.

Jesus and Paul are both speaking to us of not only the means, but also the outcome of the redemptive process. The means, of course, is the Living Christ as He indwells the believer. The outcome is a new character that is modeled after and empowered by that of the Savior.

So, Jesus reveals here the interpretive clue that makes the whole of the redemptive plot to ultimately make sense. Throughout all of the twists and turns of the ages, the ultimate purpose in the redemptive plot remains a simple one. It is Human Renewal.

Restoration of the inner man is the primary thread that continually runs through the "bigness" of it all, as well as through our own small day to day circumstance. Renewal is the ultimate intent of God's rescue. Redemption was, and is, always all about the human transformation, the magnificent transition from utter brokenness to a beautiful, new, inner fruitfulness in those who fully respond to God's love through Christ.

Through every age, that was always the Father's ultimate aim. Through all of the ups and down's of our own little daily life, that is the high plane toward which God is nudging us: the high plane of personal newness. We are returning, in Christ, to the capacities of a creature - made in God's image. The high peak of this long convoluted redemptive journey was always for the fallen creature simply to become new again in the ways that really matter.

So, in the shinning face of that beautiful Child of the manger, men first gazed upon their breath taking hope. But it was a hope, not just of forgiveness, but also the hope of a profound and very personalized newness of heart. Redemption in its farthest reaches certainly does become about many things. But the ever present, central thread that gives meaning to it all is humanity's opportunity for a true newness in the power of the Living Christ. What a truly divine, "Merry Christmas!!!" to all of us who have sensed the depth and desperation of our brokenness.